Ordinarily, our February monthly survey would go out today, or would have been issued a few days previously. Occasionally, the survey has gone out a day late; perhaps even more rarely, a few days later.
But this month will mark the first time we’ve deliberately held a survey back. We will issue it on Thursday, the day after the coming Budget, for the simple reason that undertaking it after the event is more sensible than doing it before.
After all, we can’t ask a question about what members of the ConservativeHome panel think of the Budget before it’s taken place.
Rishi Sunak is evidently concerned about the future trajectory of debt and deficit, and the advance briefing suggests that his first instrument of flattening it will be tax rises rather than spending cuts, though the reality of Wednesday may well be less painful than the prospect.
Downing Street and the Treasury’s plan may be to steer Tory MPs and the public towards the view that “it wasn’t as bad as all that” – as some tax rises are announced but postponed until later in the Parliament, in order to bring them in as the economy grows (at least, such will surely be the plan).
The Chancellor’s first Cabinet League table rating in that post put him at 65 per cent, last February. He then shot up to 95 per cent, among our the Table’s highest-ever scores, as the pandemic broke cover in March.
Since then, he has come in at 93 per cent, 92 per cent, 92 per cent, 85 per cent, 83 per cent, 82 per cent, 82 per cent, 75 per cent, 80 per cent and 82 per cent.
That’s a picture of a gradual decline from a stupendously high level, though retaining an outstanding score, until the vaccine bounce of the last survey, and the Brexit trade deal one of the poll before, pushed his score back up. He topped the table from March until November, when Liz Truss took over.
So we will see on Friday how his Budget and has gone down, and how his own score has fared, as the opiate of furlough and other lockdown and restriction subsidies is withdrawn – and we move towards more conventional times.